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September 8, 2019

Rodney Childers

Kevin Harvick

Indianapolis, Indiana

THE MODERATOR: Rodney, congratulations on winning today's 26th annual Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard. Why don't you just give us a quick overview of your view of the race and just the excitement after the race, getting a chance to kiss the bricks and all the things that go along with winning here at Indianapolis.
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I mean, the Brickyard 400 is something that means a lot to all of us, and the history that has went on here for so many years. Back when I was still racing go‑karts, I would race on Friday night, Saturday night, and I would sit on the couch at home on Sundays and watch these Cup races, and I remember when Jeff Gordon won the first one there, and I actually cried because he won. It's just so crazy to come back here and to win this thing. Since we started with the 4 team, this has been one that's been circled on our list every year. Obviously it's a big race. It's something that means a lot to all of us, something that you'll remember for years.
We have been fast every single year, and we've just never been able to put it together, and we've had little issues here or there or whatever, and today it just felt right. It felt right from the minute I woke up, and to qualify up front and to have a great race car today, I think y'all saw in the first practice, we weren't very good, and the car was way too loose and we had to work on it. It was one of those weekends where everything went right. We never made a bad adjustment in practice and never made a bad adjustment today, and those are the weekends that sometimes they just happen. Just thankful to be sitting here.
I told somebody a minute ago, I've got to get a Daytona 500 now, to win a championship before and a Coke 600 and a Southern 500 and a Brickyard 400, I may just work on speedway cars all winter and try to knock out a Daytona 500. Just really thankful.

Q. Rodney, there's been a lot of talk this year about the Joe Gibbs Racing cars and how many races they've won, how dominant they've been. Fact is you've won three of the last seven. Now going into the playoffs do you feel like you're on par with them and maybe sent a message today that you're as good as they are?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, and I'm still mad about Bristol. That should have been another one.
You know, I think this season is just tough. I think it's going to be tougher the next 10 races than it's ever been. You know, you've got 550 races that you have to be good at, you've got 750 races you've got to be good at, you've got road course cars you've got to be good at, speedway cars, you've got to have a good Martinsville car. There's so many different things in the playoffs this year that it's going to be so important to have great race cars every week.
It's really going to come down to those details of bringing the right car every week and making sure that you hit all your details during the weekend and get the most out of everything you've got.
Some weekends it's not going to be right, and some weekends you're going to have to fight like we did last week. But that's what it's all about.
THE MODERATOR: We've been joined by our race winner, driver of the No.4 Mobil 1 Ford, Kevin Harvick. We'll continue with questions for Kevin or Rodney.

Q. A lot of talk about Joe Gibbs Racing this year, how dominant they've been, how many races they've won. You've won three of the last seven. Do you think today sends a message that you're as good as they are come the playoffs?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, we just go to so many unique racetracks throughout the summer. I don't know if that's what you said. But you know, I think we've definitely made some strides in getting where we‑‑ closer to where we want to be. I think we still have some things that we have to work on at certain styles of racetracks. But this is survive and advance, and you don't necessarily have to have the fastest car. We had the fastest car today, maybe not the best handling car, but we survived, and really a day like today is a lot like how you're going to have to approach every race in the playoffs.
So we've been to Las Vegas, and it's unbelievable how far things have advanced and changed, and I still feel like we're learning a lot about this particular rules package at certain types of racetracks, and we've been changing things and working on things, and there's a lot of little things that you put together to start the playoffs that you put through the manufacturing side and the engine side and the 100 other things that you put together, and you just have to execute at this point.
It's really about the details of how you go through practice and how you start the race and what you do when things are wrong and what you do when things are right, and it's just covering those details, and it's a one‑week‑at‑a‑time grind. I don't think today's race sends a message to anybody other than we are doing a good job over the last few months of on the days when we have cars that are capable of winning we've been getting good finishes out of them and been to Victory Lane a few times over the last three months. That's the most important thing is that I think for us, we have a lot of confidence in each other and the things that we're doing right now, and sometimes that's more important than fast cars.

Q. Rodney, as Kevin just kind of mentioned, you guys have been to Las Vegas with this new aero package. It's where you kicked it off. You start the playoffs at that track. How much of a progression have you seen with this car and this package as you get ready to kick off the playoffs?
RODNEY CHILDERS: It's been huge for us. Obviously we felt like we didn't start out the year with what we needed to. If you go back and rewatch that race, it's like, you weren't too far off, you led the whole first stage and had a good car and finished top 5, but you look back on it, if we would have had cars like we had today at Vegas in the spring, we would have destroyed them. But the whole field has changed that much. It's going to be a tough race next week. I looked today, it's supposed to be 102 on Saturday and 100 on Sunday.
I'm still not sure if we've got the right car for next week, but that's part of it. You've got to go and see what you've got and work hard all weekend and make the right adjustments. We didn't have the best car when he unloaded here, either. That's just part of working through it during the weekend and getting the most out of it.

Q. Will you end up taking back the same notebook or have you just thrown that out and are basically going to take new to Vegas?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Everything we did there in the spring is done, it's junk. There's nothing that would really work from what we had there in the spring. The biggest thing is the track temp and the temperature and everything is going to be different. Like I said, the whole field has made such huge gains throughout the year and just learning how to race. That was the biggest thing at the beginning of the year is we didn't know how these things were going to race and what we needed to be good in a race. As we learned through the first third of the year, it took a while to catch up and to try to make our stuff better, and we'll just have to see how that plays out for next week.

Q. This one is more really for Rodney because I talked to Kevin a little bit before the race, and one of my main questions was qualifying on the day of the race is probably a big challenge for some of you guys, especially when you can't really touch the cars right after they qualified, and Kevin said before the race to me that this was the first time he'd gone out in qualifying trim. My big question is what are some of the major challenges when you're qualifying on race day in order to set up a car that ended up being so dominant?
RODNEY CHILDERS: Yeah, I mean, I think the whole weekend is part of that, that schedule and that struggle. Everything just blows by in a hurry. Yesterday you don't have a lot of time between practices. We tried to get through the OSS again and get another sheet on our wheel alignment and then we were 10 minutes late starting the second practice, and then you finish Happy Hour, and within a few‑‑ like two hours, you've got to make all your adjustments of how you're going to qualify and how you're going to race, and you hadn't even thought about qualifying trim because you haven't made a qualifying run in practice.
We've got a great race team and everybody just put their heads together and tried to make the right adjustments for the race, and our guys in the garage do a great job, and then it turns into today. Our car is out on the grid getting ready to qualify, and I'm like, we've got to make race adjustments as soon as we come off the racetrack. So you're trying to make those adjustments and make sure that you've done the right thing for the race. It's tough for sure. But we were able to hit it today and had a great race car.

Q. Based on after today's race, do you think NASCAR went in the right direction with this 2019 package for Indianapolis this year?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, I think for us, it's just what we race every week now. I think as you look at the TV ratings and you look at the fans and the increase in pretty much everything that we do, it's got to be something that's in a better direction. It's just the new norm for us, and we're so far from‑‑ whether I think it was right or wrong, at this point it's just what we race. So yeah, I don't know that I'm a hundred percent the right person to answer that question because I'm just in the mode of this is how it is and this is what we're going to work on, and it's going well right now for us.

Q. With all the focus being on the contention for the last couple playoff spots, how did that help you all accomplish the win today?
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, we kind of get in our own little world. It's really‑‑ when things are happening, it's like, I'm not going to deal with anything else. I don't take my phone into the garage. I don't do anything other than focus on what he needs, what the car is doing, try to be there to be giving information and giving things that I'm feeling in the car because you have to be a part of the process because it is a process, and like he said, it happens fast this weekend. In order to be part of the process, you have to be engaged in it.
I feel like that's one thing for us that works well is when he has a question or I have a question or Dax or somebody has a question, you don't have to walk far or you don't have to go far to find an opinion to help you come up with that answer. And I feel like that's one of the things that we've done better over the last few months than the majority of people is just get those little details and have developed a system for us that's been working, from what we do in race trim to what we do in qualifying trim and how we get through practice. I could have no clue where we were in practice. I did not look at the scoreboard one time. They would tell me, everything looks fine, so there's no reason to get out of the car and look at the scoreboard. It's all about working on the car to make sure it feels right. I've been to these places in who knows how many rules packages and different types of cars. I know how I want it to feel, I know how it should feel compared to the things we've done at Pocono and Michigan and all the different racetracks we've gone to, you know and have developed a feeling for the car with this particular rules package, and you're just trying to get to that as you go through practice in this rapid pace, and I feel like that's what we're doing well right now is everybody is engaged and communicating well. The cars are coming out of the shop faster, and it's been a great progression for us at Stewart‑Haas Racing over the summer.

Q. Kevin, I know the preference would probably be to win often and win early, but getting the wins that you have just prior to the playoffs starting, is there something to be said for that, as well, with having the momentum here versus maybe getting a whole bunch of wins early in the season and then kind of‑‑
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, you know, I think as you look at winning in general, it's always good, no matter when it happens. I think as you go through this stretch of races, I know how much he's wanted to win this race since we started at Stewart‑Haas Racing. That makes me smile when we can get to Victory Lane here, and it's obviously special to me.
But I definitely think that there's something to be said for that. We won last year at Loudon, and then we didn't‑‑ I don't think we won again until Texas, right? Yeah, so we won all those races at the beginning of the year and kind of fell flat from Victory Lane there in the middle of the year and then came back and ran well and contended and did all the things that we needed to do, we just didn't win those races like we did in the beginning of the year in the middle and the end of the year.
But this is a constant progression. Last year we got off and we had the best cars from a downforce standpoint and were able to capitalize on that with eight wins last year and the All‑Star Race. You know, this year has just gone a little bit different. They never go the same. But winning this close to the playoffs on really different styles of racetracks is definitely a good thing. Definitely would rather have the wins than not, that's for sure, and it's good timing.

Q. At the beginning of the race and also the end, you had dominant stretches. You had a four‑ or five‑second lead, but the stretch I think it was Blaney, when he had the lead, you took that short pit and then you had the caution. Was there a reason why you went into the pits there because it seemed like you never looked back after that?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, that was just a‑‑ they called me in to pit. That was our scheduled time. Luckily the caution came out, and it worked out perfect for us, and we got back control of the race, and that's really‑‑ from there, once we got the control of the race back, it was really about the restarts and maintaining the lead and not making any mistakes at that point.
We've been on the flipside of that, too. I can't remember. A couple years ago the caution came out and we hadn't pitted yet. So you kind of go with those cycles, and it's been 16 years in between race wins for me personally here, so you can see that we've gone through a few of those cycles, we've been through a few of those cycles with cars that have been capable of winning pretty much every year that we've been here and hadn't been to Victory Lane. So today we had a fast car and the right circumstances, and it finally went our way.

Q. I don't know if you ever saw what happened to Brad Keselowski, but he crashed into a tire barrier and his car got hung up on its side. Your thoughts on the tire barriers and how they need to work with the tracks?
KEVIN HARVICK: I haven't seen it, so I apologize, I just hadn't seen it, so I don't want to comment on something I hadn't seen.

Q. Kevin, can you amplify a little bit on your love for this place and the meaning it has to you? And also, this race got really choppy at times; was that a concern at all?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, any time you have restarts, it's a concern because you just never know‑‑ you don't want to lose control of the race, and for us I felt like our car was really fast, but it probably wasn't the best handling car in traffic. So we didn't need to lose control of the race, we needed to keep control of the race and try to do everything we can on those restarts to make everything right. Luckily that all worked out.
But as far as Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself, and for me, this is‑‑ there's not many people that get to say that they actually lived out their childhood dream. I didn't win the Indy 500, but I came about as close to it as you probably can. So winning here and just making laps here and driving here is special, and I think for me growing up in Bakersfield, a Rick Mears fan and racing around Clint, his son, in go‑karts and seeing Rick and Roger and that whole Mears gang at the racetrack, I mean, that was part of my childhood. And to see the success that he had here and know the racing heritage that the Mears family has in this particular racetrack and the history that they have here is something for me that's pretty special just because of the fact that those are people that I grew up around. They came from the same town that I come from in Bakersfield, and it's just‑‑ it's something that you don't really realize when you're a young kid that is most likely not going to happen. But I'm lucky, and I've been able to live that out and win a couple races here, and it's been fun.

Q. Kevin, you talked earlier about how much has changed, and Rodney has, too, about just how you guys have adjusted since the first race in Las Vegas, and I'm sure that can be said for many of the other teams, as well. Does that make the playoffs coming up somewhat more unpredictable than they have been in the past, or do you think it'll be more tried and true of the people who typically have the best race winning speed will shine?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I still think there's some unpredictability that goes with that. I think it's less than it was at the beginning of the year. I think it's probably less than this part of the schedule because of the unique racetracks we go to during this time of year. And the other wild card in the whole thing is you just don't know how much everybody else thinks they're going to get better and if your stuff is actually going to be better, or is it going to be the same or worse, or did you guess in the right direction. So there's a lot of‑‑ and he would be offended, they don't guess. He gets offended when I call it guessing. Theories, I don't know. But I call it guessing, as to where you need to be and what's right and what's wrong, and as you put all those little parts and pieces together and you put them on the race car and you load it up and you go to Las Vegas and you go around the racetrack and you hope that it's faster, you hope that it handles better and you hope that it has more speed. You never really know until you see what everybody else had laying in the bank as to what they think was right or wrong, as well.

Q. Keelan, what do bricks taste like?
KEELAN HARVICK: They don't taste great, but it was fun kissing the bricks.

Q. A lot has changed since 2003, and one of the big ones is you got to celebrate with your kids, Piper and Keelan. How did that add to the celebration for you compared to the first time, and it looked like Keelan enjoyed it more than most kids do?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, well, he asks me every year if he can kiss the bricks, and I tell him, well, we have to win the race to kiss the bricks. We just can't go out there and kiss them, otherwise it kind of loses its luster. It was great motivation for me at the end because I kept telling myself, don't lose this race, you're in control of this race, you've got to get Babygirl a picture in Victory Lane. Keelan, he's been lucky. He's been able to take a whole bunch of pictures and be around a lot, and that's really good for me, too. It's fun being able to have them at the racetrack, and it kind of keeps everything real. It's like yesterday we got done with practice and it was chasing Piper around on the scooter and trying to make sure Keelan didn't run over Brexton and we had an accident in the motor home lot, didn't we. Brexton had a wreck. I think Kyle came back from winning the race, and then he's standing out there in his driver's suit and I don't know if anybody even asked him or told him congratulations, it was just like, hey, welcome to the party here.
But it kind of takes your mind off of everything, and you can go and just be normal. I love what I do, but I also like being normal. Being normal is more fun, and being able to share these moments with them is way better than the race win itself because it's just‑‑ it's not something that most people get to do. I get to take them to work, and we've been fortunate to be successful at it, so it's definitely one of those situations that you kind of have to look at and smile because they actually pay me to do it.

Q. Kevin, you talked about Rick earlier and him being your childhood hero growing up. Growing up in California, I'm curious on that front, were stock cars always the path you envisioned yourself going on, or was there a thought of maybe going out and going IndyCar racing?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, when I was young, I wanted to race IndyCars because at that point IndyCars were more popular than stock cars. It took a drastic turn over the next 10, 12 years, but at that particular point, if you wanted to race at the top level, you wanted to race IndyCars. You didn't want to race stock cars. And then all that changed.
For me, I had a dad who I could have went and raced midgets at 13, 14, 15 years old, whatever, at that particular point who wanted nothing to do with open wheel racing and liked stock cars, and he worked on cars on the side, and he was a firefighter and worked on cars on the side and went to the racetrack on the weekend, and that's what I did. I went to the local short track and watched the stock cars race, and when I turned 16, that's what we did. And that was just the path.
There was really no choice. I didn't really have a say in that, and we raced go‑karts and then went straight to late model stock cars, and then from there it was just a progression of getting an opportunity to go to the next level, and I went all the way through the whole ranks of the NASCAR system at that particular time all the way to the top. So it was really not my choice, but it worked out pretty good.

Q. You talk about Rick being your childhood hero. I'd argue there's a hero that you drive for, at least for these fans. Talk about what it means to win a Brickyard 400 for Tony and what it means after watching him‑‑ and being in a couple of his Brickyard 400 wins to deliver him one as a car owner?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think obviously I know how much this place means to Tony, and you can just see that in the way that he walks around here. He's got a little more pep in his step when he walks around here than he does anywhere else. He walked up to the car, he said, Yep, you've done a good job so far this weekend. Congrats on the pole. Now go out there, and I want you to destroy them today, and then after you're done we're going to climb the fence. So I reminded him after the race that he said we were going to the climb the fence. I just wanted to see him climb the fence. That was his tradition, so that was kind of fun to be able to hopefully‑‑ him relive some memories, and I'm sure it was exciting for him. But there's still nothing like driving the car and being able to enjoy those moments from a driver standpoint.
But it was a lot of fun because I know how much it means to him, and those are the two things that he told me to do, so that's what we did today. I'm glad it worked out because he was happy and celebrating out there.

Q. You talked about getting the car the way that it feels good to you. Now that you guys have had the whole regular season to work with this new package, is it easier to tune in now, or is it more difficult than maybe some models in the past?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I think it's more difficult just because there's such an aero balance. There's so many aero decisions that you have to make from a balance standpoint, and a lot of those happen in the shop. So not only do you have to think differently than anything that I've ever driven before, you have to be‑‑ you have to be willing to change and be open‑minded to new things because it's just so drastically different, and you have so many different buttons to push to make things‑‑ make the car do different things. So there's just a lot more to the conversation than what there used to, and one thing about being around this sport, you have to be open‑minded to change because it changes rapidly, and whether it's something that happens in your shop or your career or if it's something that happens with the rules change and power taken out or more downforce out of the car, Gen‑7 cars, Gen‑6 cars, 5 cars, whatever the case is, you have to be open‑minded to keep up with the change in order to survive and keep moving forward.
So I think we've done a good job at that, and first part of the year we were kind of stuck in what we did last year, and then at some point during the beginning part of the year we realized that everything that we did last year was irrelevant, and we needed to approach things a little bit differently, and it's paid off for us over the summer.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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